Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Annie Upton Lawrence Corbert, 1840-1915
By Heather Grevatt, Assistant Professor, Librarian: Boise State University, Boise, ID
Pioneer Suffragist Devoted to Civic Engagement
Ann Upton Lawrence was born in October 1840 in Nantucket, Massachusetts. Though records place her given name as Ann, throughout her life, she regularly signed her name as Annie. Some later sources also confuse her with her daughter and mistakenly refer to her as Anita. Her parents were Frederick W. Lawrence and Susan B. Lawrence nee Hussey, both of Massachusetts. The 1850 Census places Annie as the oldest of three children, with her sister Amelia born 1843 (est.) and brother Everett born 1849. By 1860, Annie was living in San Francisco, California with her father, her cousin William H. Lawrence, and his wife and son. The Census record from this year lists her as a school teacher.
On July 15, 1863 Annie married Edward W. Corbert. The 1870 Census lists Edward as an Assessor and in 1880 he was listed as Insurance Agent. In many records, particularly those for Edward, their name is recorded as "Corbett," however Annie consistently signed her name, "Corbert" and it is the spelling used on Edward and Louise's headstone. The 1880 Census notes that Annie and Edward had three daughters--Louise, born in 1865, Sadie, born in 1869, and Anita, born in 1875.
Edward Corbert passed away in 1892 and Annie moved to Palo Alto, California, two years before the town's official incorporation. Several sources describe her as having a pioneer spirit and at least one source describes her selection of Palo Alto as a way to give her daughters the benefit of a university education. Indeed, Anita graduated from Stanford in 1896 with degrees in Economics and Sociology before marrying fellow graduate and Palo Alto City Engineer, John Fletcher Byxbee. Unfortunately, Louise would pass away October 6, 1886 at the age of 21. It is unclear if Sadie attended university before her marriage to Austin Jackson.
In her obituary in The Daily Palo Alto, Annie is described as having an "unusually brilliant mind" and being "highly educated." Perhaps her most significant contribution to suffrage was her nine-year tenure as president of the Santa Clara Political Equality Club. During her 1900 presidential address she had this to say of suffrage activities following the failed California initiative of 1896: "We are simply waiting and watching, and working to strengthen our forces and our cause, so that at the golden moment we may be ready to spring into place." At the State Convention of the California Women Suffrage Association in 1901, she delivered a speech on women's suffrage clubs and the need to keep women occupied, specifically citing the tax protest movement as an option. In 1905, she served as one of 14 California delegates to the annual convention of National American Woman Suffrage Association in Portland, Oregon. In 1906 she served as Treasurer of the California Equal Suffrage Association. It appears her efforts were primarily focused in or around northern California. Overall, there are newspaper references to Corbert as active between at least 1898 and 1911.
Outside of suffrage causes, Annie was the charter member and for many years Chairman of the Palo Alto Women's Club. She co-established a free reading room in Palo Alto and was credited with nurturing the project until it expanded and became the town library. She was one of the directors of the Palo Alto branch of the National Needlework Guild and is listed as a member of the Civic League, Peace Society, and Historical Society. In addition, Annie was a deeply devoted and active member of the Unitarian church serving on the Woman's Alliance, singing alto in the choir, and helping to run their Post Office Mission work, a program designed to provide free Unitarian literature to those who could not attend a congregation in-person.
Though Annie would see women granted suffrage in California in 1911, she unfortunately would not live to see national suffrage. After a brief illness, she passed away November 28, 1915 at the age of 75. A house she lived in from 1897-1914, that was then occupied by Anita and John, was saved from demolition in 1993 and still stands today. In her memoriam in the Pacific Unitarian, Annie was quoted as saying, "I have found that we must not judge people. Minds are different and we must not condemn as unworthy that which does not suit our own ideas. I have not always realized this, but I know it now."
A photograph of Mrs. Annie Lawrence Corbert may be found on page 8 of the December 24, 1905 edition of The Citizen available through the Palo Alto City Library's Digital Collection.
"Diplomas for Stanford Seniors." San Francisco Call, May 28, 1896.
"Equal Suffragists Adjourn for Year." San Francisco Call, Oct. 7, 1906.
Friedly, Jock. "Byxbee House Will be Saved." Palo Alto Weekly (Palo Alto, CA), June 30, 1993.
Gullet, Gayle. Becoming Citizens: The Emergence and Development of the California Women's Movement 1880-1911 Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2000.
Harper, Daniel. "Obscure Unitarians: Annie Upton Lawrence Corbert." Yet Another Unitarian Universalist. May 26, 2017. https://www.danielharper.org/yauu/2017/05/obscure-unitarians-annie-upton-lawrence-corbert/
"In Memoriam," Pacific Unitarian 25, no. 10 (1916): 262, accessed December 15, 2021, https://hdl.handle.net/2027/hvd.ah3qja
"Married." Daily Alta California (San Francisco), July 16, 1863.
New England Historic Genealogical Society. Vital Records of Nantucket Massachusetts to the Year 1850: Volume II Births (G-Z) Haverhill, MA: Record Publishing Co., 1926.
Palo Alto Stanford Heritage. "533 Bryant Street (originally 535) Byxbee House." Palo Alto Historic Buildings Inventory. Last modified July 8, 2019. https://www.pastheritage.org/inv/invB/Bryant/535bryant.html.
"Pioneer Woman Passes Beyond." Daily Palo Alto Times (Palo Alto, CA), Nov. 29, 1915.
Powers, Laura Bride. "Women's Project is a Big Success." San Francisco Call, May 29, 1905. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.
"Palo Alto's Woman's Club." The Citizen (Palo Alto, CA), Dec. 24, 1905.
"United States Census, 1850," database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MDSQ-19H : 22 December 2020), Ann Upton Lawrence in household of Frederick W Lawrence, Nantucket, Nantucket, Massachusetts, United States; citing family , NARA microfilm publication (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).
"United States Census, 1860", database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MDKH-RBR : 18 February 2021), Anne E Lawrence in entry for Wm H Lawrence, 1860.
"United States Census, 1870", database with images, FamilySearch #x200e(https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MN65-F36 : 28 May 2021), Anne Corbett in entry for Edward W Corbett, 1870.
"United States Census, 1880," database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M6G5-G21 : 5 January 2022), Annie Corbett in household of Edward Corbett, Martinez, Contra Costa, California, United States; citing enumeration district , sheet , NARA microfilm publication T9 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), FHL microfilm.
"Well Known Couple was Married Sunday at Noon." Daily Palo Alto Times (Palo Alto, CA), May 14, 1906.
"Women Suffragists Discuss Vital Topics in Convention." San Francisco Call, Oct. 19, 1901. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.